28 Simple Ways to Become Compassionate

by Mark Votava


We are trying to do something new at the Tacoma Catholic Worker where we live in relationship with so many who are marginalized and have no voice in our culture.  This saddens me because the poor have so much to offer us.  Many of them no longer believe that others care about what they have to say or who they are.  Even though we do many services for those on the margins, we are reluctant to really listen to them and the things they care about.

So we are trying to be better listeners to the poor, oppressed and marginalized in our neighborhood.  This week at our Tuesday night liturgy meal, I facilitated a conversation with a bunch of people about their thoughts on a specific question.  The question I came up with was: How can we become more compassionate people?  The question thrown out there was especially for those who might feel marginalized and voiceless.

Many people who come to our liturgy are extremely poor, with no homes, very little money and a lot of mental illness.  Some are depressed, most are hungry for food, thirsty for something to drink and hurting for relationship.  Some of the people have given up on God or been rejected by the church because of the way they look and act.  Some are drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, immigrants, have recently come out of prison, unemployed, disabled, struggle with their physical health or are working beneath a livable wage job where they get treated unfairly.

But on this day I found out that those who feel like they have no voice have some prophetic things to say to us.  I am coming to see that there is no salvation outside the poor.  It is the poor who save us from the illusion of the affluent life of meaninglessness that it seem many of us pursue on a path of upward mobility.  Why are we so afraid to listen to the cries of the poor?

This night I broke out of my fear to open myself up to really listen to those who Jesus said what you do for one of the least of these you are doing to me.  We need to listen more to Jesus through the poor.  This could change everything about how we experience life, care for others and live in community.

Here are 28 ways that were expressed in our conversation about how we can become more compassionate toward those who feel marginalized.

1. Focus on what we have in common with one another

2. Show love and respect

3. Share some food together

4. Don’t be so judgmental

5. Take a posture of understanding

6. Listen and hear others

7. Have more availability for others to take showers in our homes

8. Engage in action that comes from the heart

9. Become open to the wisdom they bring to us

10. Be compassionate toward yourself first

11. Live for the benefit of others

12. Find ways to be together

13. Share our assets

14. Daily acts of kindness and reflection

15. Cultivate patience

16. Have a true motive of genuine care

17. Come out of your own box

18. Respond to suffering

19. Get to know each other

20. Share our thoughts and stories

21. Share our lives together

22. Engage in the process and conversion of compassion

23. Walk with others

24. Take it slow

25. Stop to pause before we immediately respond to someone

26. Realize that we all want the same thing, not to be dehumanized

27. Help someone out while feeling with emotion

28. Refuse to be bitter and hateful

What has touched you through this story?